As Boris Johnson’s journey to Downing Street looks increasingly certain, campaigners against Heathrow expansion are calling for the frontrunner for prime minister to scrap the planned third runway.
Mr Johnson, who is MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip – which adjoins Heathrow – has fiercely opposed the government’s preferred option of building another runway at Europe’s busiest airport.
On the day in 2015 when the Davies Commission recommended a third runway, Mr Johnson said: “A third runway will fail both London and the UK on every level.”
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As Mayor of London, he spent millions of pounds campaigning for a new airport to be built in the Thames Estuary, which became known as “Boris Island”. It was flatly rejected by Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission.
Mr Johnson dismissed the three years of research by the Davies Commission, saying: “We had to go through this exercise. Having circled around and around, we will eventually come into land at the estuary.
He later pledged to take direct action, saying: “I will lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway.”
As the selection process for the next Tory leader and prime minister continues, John Stewart, chair of the anti-expansion group, Hacan, said: “Boris could consign the bulldozer to the annals of history by scrapping the third runway.”
But in the first televised debate of contenders for prime minister in which Mr Johnson took part, he seemed to soften his opposition, saying: “I continue to have grave reservations about Heathrow runway three, not just from air pollution but also for noise pollution.”
He also referred to legal action, saying: “As you know, court cases are now proceeding and as prime minister I will be following them very closely indeed.”
It is not clear what cases Mr Johnson had in mind, as the High Court threw out challenges against the government’s decision – and while appeals and fresh cases are being considered, none is currently in progress.
John McDonnell, who is both the shadow chancellor and the “MP for Heathrow” – the airport lies within his constituency – criticised Mr Johnson’s ambivalence. He said: “About 10,000 of my constituents will have their homes demolished or rendered unliveable by air and noise pollution if Heathrow expands.
“Boris Johnson promised to lie in front of the bulldozers to stop it. Today he’s refused to block the third runway.”
Hillingdon Conservatives, the association which covers Mr Johnson’s constituency, is campaigning against expansion.
Its most recent manifesto said: “We will continue to lead on and support local residents once again threatened with additional noise and air pollution and the devastating effect on local communities of an expanded Heathrow airport.
“We have set aside sufficient funding to fight the proposed third runway at Heathrow through the various courts in the years ahead, should this be required and we are confident that it will again be defeated.”
Heathrow has launched a 12-week consultation on its masterplan, which involves demolishing 761 homes and a primary school.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Expanding Britain’s hub airport means our country will have up to 40 new, long-haul trading links after Brexit, as well as creating tens of thousands of new skilled jobs and boosting our economy by tens of billions.
“Delivering all of this within strict environmental limits and at no cost to the taxpayer – it’s no wonder 415 MPs crossed party lines and green-lighted the project.
“Given this support and the benefits and mitigations programme in place, we are getting on with delivering this project for the country.”
Mr Johnson’s key backers include Zac Goldsmith and Theresa Villiers, both of whom are strongly opposed to expansion.
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